by Carl L. Biemiller,
edited by C. J. Carnahan and Eric Biemiller

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

Please respect the copyrights.
The chapter links are located at the end of each chapter.
Chapter 19

Woodie’s father was less rigid about Woodie’s work with Dr. Bailiff. This was because Woodie’s mother was more sensible.

“If Woodie is really gifted, I don’t think we should stunt his talents even if we don’t understand them. And, if whatever it is that Woodie has can add to our knowledge of things we don’t understand now, then he is being useful, maybe in a way that Einstein was useful, and I’m sure that Einstein’s mother didn’t exactly know what he was up to either.”

“Einstein,” snorted Woodie Senior.

“He even looked like a loony,” said Connie Kynwood sweetly.

“I’m still afraid of the whole thing,” said Ballard Senior. “And for Woodie, not for me, although I’m afraid of that too.”

“Maybe it’ll all go away. Decker Todd wants to see Woodie again soon anyhow. He says he checks his work until he’s happy even if it takes every dime a patient has. Maybe Woodie will lose his ESP talents in time. In fact, I wish I had them.”

Ballard Kynwood said a graffiti.

“Anyhow Woodie will still be picking up some pin money for the summer. Isn’t that better than flopping around the beach or learning to smoke pot or holding up people or stealing cars or learning about girls from the children of permissive parents or fishing or going off to camp at great expense if we could afford to send him?”

“You’d better breathe or you’ll fall over in a faint,” said Woodie Senior.

“Well, if I do just don’t step on my stomach on the way out.”

May went where all May times go and nobody ever gets them back either, unless he is wise enough to squirrel them away and love them again in memories when old age and a disease called arthritis get going hand in hand. School closed for the summer in June and Tinker’s father made arrangements for Woodie to work part time with Tinker around the swimming pool and the grounds of his resort hotel.

“What I want you fellas to do besides, cutting grass, raking my pebble walks, weeding around them hydrangeas and a little touch up painting, is to clean the pool in the mornings, haul out the lounges, sweep up the sun bathing areas, watching out for broken beer bottles, and to keep the town kids, whose folks buy summer tickets to the pool, from bothering guests. Tinker, you can sit in a lifeguard stand and look simple in your spare time. Woodie, you make friends with my chef and get some meat on your bones. I don’t want anybody to think I’m running a cure house for rickets. The pay is $1.50 an hour and I’ll keep the records,” said Tinker’s father.

“How am I going to get time to play American Legion baseball?” Tinker asked his father.

“That’s a twilight league, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ask the sun to stay up longer then.”

“You’ll be gypping me outta about $100,000 a year with the Yankees when I’m eighteen, you know.”

“And probably the World Series too,” said Tinker’s dad. “But I had a bad boyhood too, I think. When I was eighteen I got a notice to go fight a war and I wasn’t even mad at anybody.”

Dr. Bailiff made some tentative arrangements too.

“We’ll get together at least once a week,” he said. “I may want your help in direct experiments, but if not, we can chat. It’s very important that I know if you experience any ESP phenomenon at all. You know that new power is challenged…and you don’t know the range of yours as yet…I’ll be away a lot for a time. There are some parapsychologists investigating what they call OBE or ‘out of the body experiences’. You know something about that. The cases involved seem authentic. I want to know more about them. If you need me, you can call me by phone. If you need me as in really need me, there is another way. This summer will try us. It has been foretold.

Emily Diana Nation made some arrangements too. Her very best friend Sue was being packed off to New Hampshire for six weeks because her father always spent much of the summer in New Hampshire with his mother, her farm, and the ghost of Daniel Webster who was a great pre-Civil War statesman. Sue and her mother picked berries, swam in a mud pond, rode horses and did woodcraft, and, if there hadn’t been a nearby boy’s camp, Sue would hardly have anybody to play her radio at.

“My arrangements are to come over here every day to get an early start in hanging around Woodie,” she told Woodie’s mother. “When he is not here, I’ll go hang around where he is and help him.”

Connie Kynwood put her arms around Emily and kissed her.

“Woodie’s lucky,” she said.

“He might be someday,” said Emily gravely. “Anyhow, is it all right?”

“It is if you play tennis with me once in a while.”

“I used to hang around Tinker a lot,” continued Emily.

“Emily, I forget when I used to hang around a boy I liked,” said Mrs. Kynwood. “But I remember I did, and I remember I liked it sort of, but any old day now you are going to wake up one morning…and bango! Boys are going to be hanging around you. Lots of them.”

“That’s what my mother says.”

“What’s your father say?”

“Like screeches sort of.”

June moved on and the prevailing winds confirmed real summer by puffing out of the west in the morning and swinging around the compass to blow cool and steady southeast from the sea in the afternoon. Old man Brewster Bertlesby sitting on his porch with a dandy view of the seawall but no ocean would feel the fresh, damp tang and set his wristwatch to one o’clock P.M. no matter what time it was because one o’clock was when the wind blew out of the southeast.

Marterville had a big homecoming party for two Vietnam veterans who had been prisoners of war. They were two flyers who called their folks from New York City and then took two weeks to get the next fifty miles to Marterville. The town party was held in the high school football stadium, which holds 10,000 people, but only about 200 showed up as the Vietnam War was never popular in Marterville. There were still ashes of burnt up draft cards in the bushes around the campus. But the mayor was there, and some officers from Fort Dix, and the mothers and fathers of the two flyers, and a lot of little kids, and an electric rock band, which the flyers said, sounded like a gook raid. Mastodon Brown stopped by with his dog catcher’s truck and let the dogs out for a look. The flyers read little speeches, supplied by the Army or the Air Force or maybe the Navy, which thanked the President for their release from prison camp. Being local boys, they thought the microphone was shut off when they said that they’d rather be in Hong Kong than Marterville. They also said that no self respecting person would consider a military career, and no matter what the military recruiters for the new Volunteer Army promised high school boys and girls, they would be better off working on a pig farm.

June was not a big month around Marterville. Babette Banister, age fourteen, ran away to join a commune with a fifteen year old Mohawk Indian who had been in town protesting the lot of American Indians and demanding the return of tribal lands where the city of Binghamton, New York State, now stood. He had a big petition signed by a lot of Binghamton people who liked the idea and thought that the Mohawks could do better. The local police force caught a pot peddler with a pick-up truck full of freshly cut marijuana from a nearby farm. Chopin Chandler Secrist the fifteen-year-old son of the Episcopal minister committed suicide while under the influence of LSD. And most of the college kids left town with plans to find themselves.

The point is, all of America could blow up, and in places like Marterville and New York and Burnt Bend and Chicago, people would just go on planting fields and washing cars and going to the office or the store or the factory or to the hospital to have a baby. Old Fletcher Farragut had a grandfather who found himself in the middle of Pickett’s charge in the Battle of Gettysburg when he only stopped to ask how to get to Lancaster. It takes a long time to get Americans stirred up about being Americans. And there are some folks around who claim that nobody much cares about being an American anyhow let alone respect the fact.

But then as Tinker Tubb’s father occasionally pointed out to Tinker, “Nobody misses the water until the well goes dry.”

“They’d probably drink beer,” said Tinker.

“It takes water to make beer,” said his father. “And if I catch you with a glass in your hand until I say ready, you’ll need splints on your fanny.”

“I believe you,” said Tinker.

But summer moved on and just about high noon of the season, an awful lot of Americans began to take a hard look at that mythical well that Tinker’s father talked about now and then.

The United States Senate Select Committee headed by an old Senator from Carolina began to hold televised hearings pertaining to the Watergate scandal. For the first time a witness contended that the President not only knew about the Watergate burglary, but had participated in attempts to cover up the affair. For the first time the men involved in the biggest abuse of political power in history had faces. They became real not just names and titles. And so did corruption in high office.

It became apparent that Watergate was far from a nasty political break-in for political information about a presidential campaign. Allegations against the President himself stated that he had interfered in an anti-trust law case against a big company called ITT in return for money to be used to help elect him … that he raised the price of milk for children everywhere for campaign money…that he formed his own spy agency outside of regular government departments to commit illegal acts including the burglary of a doctor’s office in an effort to find evidence against a man on trial … that he had offered the judge trying the man’s case a big job if the judge would influence the jury to find the man guilty … that he knew his people offered special government favors to businesses which would give him money to be re-elected … that he had misused public funds to improve two of his own big houses … and that he did not even pay his proper share of income taxes …

Woodie’s father said, “You can smell greed and the stink of spoiled ambition.”

Each passing day brought tarnish and disgust to millions of Americans, and there were lots of passing days.

There was no direct proof of the President’s guilt in anything although Mastodon Brown said, “If he was only the president of a firm taking dents outta fenders, he woulda had to resign or get fired for just the stuff his own hired hands done.”

Naturally, the White House denied everything. It claimed something called Executive Privilege, which meant that laws didn’t apply to the President the same way they applied to everybody else. Then the White House said that no matter what it knew it wouldn’t tell because of national security, and if it did the Russians might be marching down Main Street in Marterville instead of being friends, and all that time the President had spent getting the country out of Vietnam and making pals of the Chinese Reds and the Russians might be wasted.

The Senate appointed a Special Prosecutor to investigate the Watergate mess because the President’s Department of Justice had already bollixed up the matter. Besides two of the Attorney Generals of the United States appointed by the President were themselves under investigation for shady stuff although the third one looked like he might be honest.

Then one day the Senate Committee called a former White House aide to testify. And what he said under oath to tell the truth was that practically all of the President’s White House meetings and telephone calls had been secretly recorded on tapes and filed away in case the President wanted to know what somebody said to him and what he said back.

Woodie and Tinker were watching the TV from the fringe area of an outside bar and lounge that Tinker’s father had fixed up for guests who liked to sit around the pool but did not like swimming.

So were a lot of guests. In fact, Tinker’s father had never a guest attraction like what he called al fresco television during the Senate hearings. He even hired TV sets and put them on the beach under sunshades and beach umbrellas. He admired Tinker’s get up and go for taking a TV set out to the swimmer’s raft just beyond the surf line and rigging a hood for it so that real ocean fans could swim and watch at the same time.

“I admire your get up and go, son,” he said.

Anyhow Woodie and Tinker were there when the witness testified that the President had a record of practically every word ever said in the White House.

“That’s good. That’s great,” said Tinker who never forgot that he had shaken hands with the President of the United States and admired him. “Now all the President has to do is play those tapes for the committee and the courts and all those people telling lies about him can get their lumps.”

That’s what most of Marterville thought too. It was what millions of people all over the country thought.

But the President didn’t hear Tinker nor the rest of the millions of people. Or, if he did he didn’t do anything about it. All the White House did was make excuses why it would not be a good thing for the rest of the government to hear his tapes. As for the rest of the country, well, it would just have to take his word for things.

That summer in Marterville people got a little sick to their stomachs when they thought about Watergate as most of them did a lot of the time. There was a lot of talk about blame, but not much about what was really bugging folks, and that was their own private feelings of shame.

Dr. Decker Todd said that he felt like boiling everything he drank to kill germs.

Dr. Reginald B. Bailiff couldn’t have been sadder if he’d heard that the United Nations had endorsed slavery. His amethyst eyes were a dull purple flow as he spoke to Woodie Junior in his private office.

“When trust goes out of government, son, government goes out of the land. And when the first real crisis comes, nobody will believe anything government tells them, nor will they abide by rules, regulations, and even laws made by that government. You will see people become foragers for their own selfish comforts, and perhaps for the basic things of life which are as simple as light and heat and food and the right to move from one place to another. Violence will be used to solve problems.

“No matter how Watergate is resolved, it has already fouled the fabric of American life and put justice in jeopardy. Do you understand that, Woodie?”

“Yes, sir,” said Woodie.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Chapter Twenty Three Chapter Twenty Four Chapter Twenty Five Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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